What Are Pool Bets?

Pot of GoldPool betting, simply put, is a gambling form in which punters bet on their choices with all the money going into the shared pool. Once costs are taken out, the rest of the pool is shared out between all the winning tickets, the returns depending on how much was staked.

Because of this, a one-unit stake is already included in advertised odds, which can change rapidly in pool betting such as on the Tote.

For example, a horse could be listed at odds of 2.75 on the Tote. Taking away that one unit stake, the odds are 1.75 to 1, or 7/4 in old money.

Pool betting is transparent with its odds entirely dependent on who back what and for how much. This has proven the point that, while bookmakers are the traditional pantomime villains, their prices too are genuine as if they weren’t the pools would highlight this.

In other words, in a race of ten horses if nobody at all was backing the outsiders, their odds would simply be huge. The price of the favourites would contract greatly so as to offer no real value at all. In reality however, give or take a few percent the fixed odds and those on the Tote very often match up.

Famous Pools

  • The Tote – although it’s changed ownership over the years (see below), the Tote has been Britain’s main on and off-course pool betting service for nearly 100 years.
  • World Pool – for major meetings such as the 2000 Guineas, Royal Ascot or Champions Day, those in Hong Kong, USA, Australia and more are essentially all betting in the same pool to create a multi-million-pound pot, making odds more competitive.
  • America – using parimutuel betting, American racetracks or individual racing associations such as the NYRA, run their own pools on track.
  • TAB – in Australia, the biggest pool betting firm is the TAB – the Totalisator Agency Board.

The Tote

Tote Win and Place Bet

Formed way back in 1928 and owned from inception by the government, the original on-course pool betting organisation was known as the Horserace Totalisator Board. The Tote became known colloquially as the “Nanny Goat” or even simply the “Nanny”.

After many years as a government entity, it was sold off in 2011 to UK bookmaker Betfred. Now, the specially-formed UK Tote Group (Alizeti Capital) has assumed control with the brand still extremely well-regarded, especially on-track around the country.

While the Tote’s pool betting system allows basic win and place bets, many punters have kept it going by indulging in the ever-popular Placepot and Jackpot pools, as well as the Scoop 6.

Typical Tote Pool Bets

  • Win/Place – Win and Place pools simply allow punters to back the win (self-explanatory), or the place (first two or three).
  • Exacta – this challenges punters to find the first two horses home in the right order, much like a traditional Forecast. There is a Reverse Exacta available too, equivalent to a Reverse Forecast (first two in any order).
  • Swinger – pick two horses, and if they finish anywhere in the first three you win a share of the pot.
  • Trifecta – leading to big dividends if you get it right, the Trifecta involves picking three horses to finish first, second and third in the correct order.
  • Placepot – the most popular Tote bet of all, available on and off-course. Punters pick one or more horses in each of the first six races at a meeting. If all horses are placed, they receive their rightful share of the pot
  • Quadpot – used as some insurance alongside the Placepot, the Quadpot concerns races 3, 4, 5 and 6. So, if something has let your Placepot down in the first two races, the Quadpot keeps your interest.
  • Jackpot – one horse racing meeting is chosen each day to be the Jackpot meeting, featuring a minimum pool of £10,000. To win the Jackpot pool, punters need to pick all of the first six winners at the meeting.
  • Scoop 6 – run on Fridays and Saturdays, the Scoop 6 features six selected races at various meetings in which punters must pick the winner of all.

The ‘dividend’ paid out on Tote bets is based on one unit being equal to £1. So, if you entered one line of the Placepot at £3 and it won, with the advertised dividend being £136.54, then your personal pay out would be £409.62.

Why is Pool Betting Not Included in Offers?

Despite the Tote, under the brand name Totepool, having had over 500 shops around the country, added to the fact that punters can place Tote bets via traditional bookmakers, many have felt let down that offers do not count towards such wagers.

To be honest, it’s only correct that betting offers aren’t included in pool betting. The entire point of a pool bet is that, other than the pool’s ‘take’, the rest of the pot is shared out between all winning tickets.

Offers given by bookmakers in fact are never too generous, not considering the money they take off the back of a sport such as horse racing. In the States, tracks run their pool betting, sometimes at off-track locations, with all of the money going into the central pot.

Money is taken out for the running costs of the tracks, prize money etc as well as the guaranteed mark-up, meaning the cash brought in by wagers is kept within the sport. It doesn’t go into the bookmakers’ satchels and right out of the game.

Is Pool Betting Better for Horse Racing?

Totepool Horse Racing Bet

There is probably no one answer to that question, but the truth is we need pool betting, exchange betting and traditional fixed odds to keep things competitive.

On the one hand, it’s terrific that in the States the profit made from on-track pool betting stays within the sport. However, odds can change so explosively and you cannot lock-in a price in the way you can with a traditional fixed-odds bookmaker, so we definitely need both of those at a minimum.

It would seem the best compromise is to allow exchanges and fixed odds bookmakers off-course, and only pool betting on-course run by the tracks or by the BHA to ensure monies gained go towards better prize money, better facilities and equine and human care.